Just like many of you, the last few years have been challenging for me. The pandemic. Financial recovery. Family needs. Health issues. It’s been a lot. We have all been through a lot.
It’s been much more than a minute since my last blog. I had to step back because even though you can have it all, maybe not all at once. I needed to focus on things that needed me more.
I’ve spent the spring going from city to city, mentoring others through their photoshoots. Preparing their entries for Kao Global Creative Awards and other competitions. It’s a whirlwind. I usually fly every Saturday and return home every Wednesday. By the time the three months is done I’m very exhausted. I’m also completely filled up with joy. I LOVE what I do. I love the excitement and the happiness others feel when they see what they can create. It’s magic. I feel like a fairy godmother.
I’ve spent the past 14 years very much entrenched in the world of photographic hair competitions. What a gift it’s been.
Participating. Coaching and mentoring the how to’s. Winning AND losing. Lots of highs and lows.
I’ve dedicated a huge part of my later career to this. I’ve personally won around 20 awards. Lost many, many more than that.
I’m privileged to mentor hundreds of others through this journey. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me ugly cry with pride more than seeing someone I coached walk up on stage to accept their award. It’s a high like no other. Way better than the feeling of winning one myself. Mostly because I have been there throughout their journey to that stage. I saw the struggle. The tears. The fear. The moment when it all came together.
I’ve seen hair competitions completely change the projection of lives and careers. It’s opened doors. Helped others achieve things they have only dreamed of. Being a part of that is so incredible.
I’ve also hugged and comforted and wiped tears for those disappointed about not winning. That is always hard. What I try to impart is how to handle it all with grace, dignity and kindness. Resilience.
Simply, you MUST be capable of clapping, loudly, for those who win. Even when you wanted it for yourself. You see, they also wanted it. For each person there is a time and place, and you need to be able to celebrate others in their moment. Be happy for them. Really, truly happy. It feels so much better than jealousy.
If you want something enough, you will find a way. Keep working. Keep pushing yourself. Growing. Learning. In time, your moment will come too. Nothing comes without the work. The sacrifice. If you only enter to win, you are missing the point. Creative competition is so much more than winning. One of my favorite sayings is, “Try, fail…Try again, fail better.” That’s the secret recipe to growth and success.
Always, ALWAYS be humble and kind. When YOU win, you want to be someone that everyone else stands up and claps for.
For me, competition is so very much more than a win. Hair photographic competitions have literally saved my life. More than once.
The First Time
When I did my first photoshoot for my very first competition, I was 43. Burnt out and uninspired. Terribly unhappy. Stuck in an abusive marriage. One of the lowest points in my life. My self-esteem was very low. I had forgotten where my joy came from. I was a creative, but because I was just trying to survive a difficult life, I forgot myself. Lost myself. Frozen in the moment and no idea how to change it.
That first competition quite literally saved me. I have spoken about it a lot, so I’ll save you the long story.
That first competition started a spark, that lit a huge fire, that gave me ME back. Gave me the strength to escape my marriage. Save my children. Rebuild my life. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s true. I really feel without finding that soul fulfilling passion, I may not be here.
Being creative, truly artistically creative, requires you to access a part of your brain where your most primal emotions live. Fear. Love. Hate. Insecurity and confidence also come from this place.
It’s why many cry during my photoshoot workshops. In order to access your creativity, you also need to push through a lot of emotional baggage. It’s why they call them “tortured artists.” Why Van Gogh cut his ear off. Why so many artists suffer.
It’s also so very therapeutic. When you open yourself up creatively, you open yourself up to feeling everything. All of it. Good and bad. You become braver. Your self-esteem grows. Your creativity begins to rebuild you from the inside out. It’s the most amazing gift I have ever been given…to find my power through creativity.
Shortly after I ended my marriage and went through the trauma of divorce and court, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I was able to hold onto the lessons learned through creativity, the resurgence of my own power, to propel me through my cancer battle. If I had gotten cancer before finding that, I’m not sure I’d still be here.
When my cancer came back, I’m sure no one would have judged me if I turned into a puddle on the floor and just gave up.
Here the thing…right before that second diagnosis, I had planned a photo shoot. Booked models. Hired the photographer. Hired the makeup artist. Arranged assistance.
When my oncologist talked to me about how difficult the next year of my life would be and how low my chances were (yes, I asked him for honesty) all I could think about was that shoot I wanted to do. The first day of chemo in preparation for my bone marrow transplant was supposed to be the same day as my shoot.
So when I begged my oncologist to delay my chemo by a day so that I could still do the shoot, I tried to tell him that the joy and high from that shoot would fill me up enough to get though the next difficult year.
He thought I was crazy, but he saw what it meant to me and agreed.
That shoot was everything I dreamed it would be. It did give me a full tank to get through it all. After all my cancer treatments were done, that shoot went on to win Canadian Colourist of the Year at the Contessa Awards (the Canadian equivalent to the NAHAs). I was able to accept that award, one year later, with my barely-growing-back hair, weak body, glowing spirit and being newly cancer-free.
It's Your Turn
Photoshoots. Competitions. Creativity. Being fearless. Taking chances and expressing who I am saved me. It continues to save me when life gets tough.
So, if you've dreamed about entering a photographic competition, or just doing your own creative photoshoot project for yourself, GO FOR IT!
Yes, you will be afraid and feel like you are not good enough. Do it anyways. We are all afraid. It’s ok. Tell the negative voices in your head to sit down and shut up. Throw yourself into it and feel all the emotions. Trust your vision. Take chances creatively. Find a mentor (hopefully I’ll get to work with you one day in my coaching travels).
It’s ok to do something that is just for you.
You deserve that gift that only you can give yourself.
Don’t skip the hard work. The planning. The preparation. Choose a good model. A skilled photographer. Experienced makeup artist. Build your own team. Team YOU.
If you see me at NAHA or KAO Global Creative Awards or Contessa Awards this year, come say hi. I’d love to meet you. Share your dreams with me!
Feel free to reach out. I’m always here. ❤️
Contact Michelle Pargee at Michellelisapargee@gmail.com.
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